Reviews

2016 BMW i8 Driving Impressions


Let’s start slowly, in the Max e-Mode setting while using the battery. It’ll go 75 mph using all-electric front-wheel drive. The regenerative braking is quite strong ion this mode: It slows the car down so much, you almost don’t have to use the brake pedal.

Now we’ve gone 15 miles (a lot less if we went 75 mph), and we’re done, dry, no more battery juice. Our car shifts itself into the default Comfort mode, and fires up the 1.5-liter turbo motor. We stir up some battery juice with revs, so we switch into Sport. The motor and engine are separately powering the front and rear wheels. We floor it, and that word BOOST appears on the dash and triggers a grin. Zero to sixty in 4.2 seconds, indeed.

Sport mode radically changes the car’s attitude. The instruments glow red, a digital tachometer replaces the power meter, and all the performance software gets aggressive. At 75 mph, the two-speed transmission driving the electric motor shifts into high gear, providing torque up to 135 mph.

Programming these systems can’t be easy, managing and balancing the input from all the sensors. With all that shifting of power and dynamics, virtually perpetual, it seems amazing when the handling comes out neutral, as it does in the i8.

We drove the i8 aggressively on some twisting canyon roads above Los Angeles. Granted, a Lamborghini, Ferrari, or McLaren would leave the i8 in the dust. Still, the i8 fared well. The electric power steering is precise, providing decent (simulated) feedback in the steering wheel. In Sport mode, the ride remained compliant, twitching a bit only in rough pavement on hard corners.

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